By Justin Cresser
Soccer involves performing repeated high intensity actions over the course of a 90 minute (less for younger players) game. A high level of aerobic endurance is therefore required by soccer players as this component of conditioning aids in recovering from these high intensity actions, and prevents a decrease in technical performance that occurs with fatigue.
One of the best methods to improve aerobic endurance is interval training, a form of cardiovascular training that involves performing short periods of high intensity work interspersed with work periods of lower intensity.
Consider the following dribbling activity, which uses the interval training format, to enhance the aerobic capacity of your players.
Set up 8 to 10 small cones, 5 yards apart, 15 to 20 yards from the top of one penalty area. Give each player a ball and instruct them to dribble around inside the playing area using small touches while keeping their heads up (Figure 1). They are not allowed to go outside the penalty box and they must always be moving.
After 90 seconds, have all players dribble as fast as possible, but under control, around any of the small cones and then back inside the penalty box (Figure 2). As soon as they return, have them walk around for 30 seconds and then dribble for another 90 seconds followed by speed dribbling again. Continue this cycle (dribble--speed dribble--walk) for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on age and fitness levels).
- Vary the dribbling component after each repetition of speed dribbling. Start by having them dribble with either foot and then progress to:
- having them dribble with the weaker (normally left) leg only
- having them take alternate touches with the inside then outside of the foot (inside-outside)
- having them perform a step-over after every three touches
- having them perform a double step-over after every three touches
- having them perform a cutback after every 3 touches
- having them do any move they want, as long as it is as quickly as possible under control
There are so many other variations you can use and feel free to add any progression that may be appropriate.
- When dribbling in the box, they must use small touches while dribbling with the head up
- When speed dribbling, they must use the outside of the foot or laces, and upon contact with the ball, the toes must be pointed down with the heel up
- After step-overs and cutbacks, have them explode into a different direction
- Encourage them to use both feet when dribbling and performing skills
- Encourage them to dribble at game speed
Best of Luck,
Justin Cresser - Has coached soccer at various levels both in North America and abroad (Hong Kong and Africa). His most recent position was as the Assistant Technical Director at the Soccer Club of Toronto. He has his National Diploma from the NSCAA and is also a certified strength and conditioning coach.